WHEN THE LORD TAKES AWAY
Transfiguration Sunday – B LSB #’s 414, 739, 537
Text – 2 Kings 2:5a
The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha & said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?”
WHEN THE LORD TAKES AWAY
When our neighbors leave their dog home alone, she howls like she’s being tortured with a hot branding iron. I’m sure you’ve also noticed that if a parent leaves their infant or toddler behind the child will often burst out in tears. Older children are saddened when they have to return home after a fun visit with friends or cousins.
Parents grieve at what might be as sons or daughters leave home for military service. Middle-aged men & women grow uneasy as their parents decline in health & move closer to the inevitable reality of death. Regardless of age & circumstance, pets & human beings have difficulty enduring separation.
As Jesus leads three of His inner circle to a mountaintop, to prepare them for His coming death & resurrection, He builds a foundation for hope through His transfiguration. In a location across the Jordan River, & many years prior, despite the pain of separation from Elijah, Elisha received confidence through another spectacular display of God’s presence.
Separation commonly causes painful feelings of loss even as we trust in Jesus to be our Savior from sin & from sorrow. All those feelings of loneliness & loss come from one & the same thing. Man brought all of his misery upon himself through his rejection of God’s Word.
And though Elijah was sent from God to lead Israel back to paradise, his ministry as a prophet was fraught with bitter disappointment & dark despair. At one particularly low point he sat beneath a broom tree & prayed, “…I have had enough, LORD. Take my life…” (1 Kings 19:4)
The disciples of Jesus would endure separation from their Lord & Master as He was
betrayed, tortured & crucified before their very eyes. And they were powerless to stop it. Elisha would endure separation from his teacher & master as God reached down to earth with a whirlwind & ushered Elijah into heaven. His student Elisha was also powerless to stop it.
The Covid pandemic has brought separation into our lives in ways that few of us ever could have imagined. Even 12 months ago, who would have thought that thousands of elderly people would be forced to die alone in nursing homes completely separated from family & loved ones. And those frail & lonely victims were powerless to stop it.
All those separations, & the grieving that goes with them, stem from the very 1st separation in history. In that case man was the instigator as, in fear, he tried to separate himself from his Creator:
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, & the man & his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8 ESV) It was the human creature that brought separation into every aspect of living & yet, when the Lord takes away whom do we blame?
The prophet Isaiah spells out who is at fault for the pain we feel when separated from the things, the places & the people we love, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your wrongdoings have caused a separation between you & your God…” (Isaiah 59:2 NASB)
The perfect harmony of the Garden of Eden was shattered when Adam & Eve rejected the Word of God as too restrictive. In making the choice to go their own way, they created the separation between themselves & their loving Father. You & I follow in their footsteps whenever we choose to ignore God’s Word.
And when we blame Yahweh for our problems, then too, we are ignoring His Word.
Job, on the other hand, known for the suffering & tragedy that he endured, acknowledged that the Lord has the right to take away from us, because everything we have has come from God in the first place. So, when all of his oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants & children were taken from him, by theft or by death, here’s what he said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, & naked shall I return. The LORD gave, & the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21 ESV)
Have those been your words since the Covid pandemic arrived? Have those been your words when the people you voted for did not get elected to office? Have those been your words when your health takes a turn for the worse? I know it’s a struggle for me to bless the name of the Lord in my trials, so I can be fairly certain that it’s a struggle for you as well.
In the best case scenario, when the Lord takes away it is a process for us to adjust. In the worst case scenario anger flares out & takes over our thoughts, & our words & our deeds. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, turning to the Lord takes the veil away from our heart so that we can be reconnected to the heavenly Father.
Without turning to the Lord we cannot see & we cannot understand why God allows or even causes separation to come into our lives. Without turning to the Lord we only see separation as afflicting us with loneliness & sorrow. “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, & where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
Choosing to reject the Word of God turns us into slaves of sin, death & the Devil. Our sinful nature believes that when the Lord takes away then God is doing us wrong. He’s giving us a raw deal.
The truth is that by rejecting God’s Word Adam set in motion a lifetime of separation, not only from God, but from everyone & from everything that our saintly nature would love. It was our Father in heaven who intervened to offer us another way. Although, because of the damage done by sin, separation is a routine occurrence in this life, it does not have to be the complete & the total reality forever. The Great I Am sent God the Son to endure the ultimate separation in our place, & He did so on the cross.
“And about the 9th hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matthew 26:47 ESV) At that moment in time, God the Father & God the Spirit withdraw their presence & left Jesus on the cross, truly, all alone. At Golgotha, separation became the complete & total reality.
And having endured that separation, Jesus knows firsthand the pain you feel as you endure the separations that sin has caused . When the Lord takes away, He does not do so lightly, but out of necessity & motivated by His unfathomable love for all of His creation. And to reduce, as much as possible, the separations we endure, He gave us His Word.
“And a cloud overshadowed them, & a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.’” (Mark 9:7 ESV) And what Jesus tells us, that we should listen to, is that He will never leave us. The only way we can suffer the eternal separation of hell is by leaving Jesus. Sadly, many people do. For whatever reason, they do not want His love in their lives.
Moses, who endured many separations, wrote, “Be strong & courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV) And when the Lord does take away, He always gives back far more, in quantity or quality, of blessings that last for eternity. Amen.
Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand: I am tired, & I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light. Take my hand, precious Lord; lead me home. When my way grows drear, precious Lord, linger near, when my life is almost gone, hear my cry, hear my call; hold my hand lest I fall. Take my hand, precious Lord; lead me home. Amen. LSB 739:1-2.
 2 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet